There at the top of the list of 12 teams with a 3-0 record was the University of Miami.
Oh, the Hurricanes were joined by North Carolina State, also 3-0, but having a mere share of the league lead even at this early point in the conference race is a first for the program that has been overshadowed by its football and baseball programs since, well, since forever.
Not since the 1997-98 season, when they were competing in the Big East, have the Hurricanes won their first three conference games.
They got there this time with a grind-it-out, 54-47 win over Maryland in a nationally televised affair Sunday night. The win over the Terps was their first at home in conference play after two road victories at Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
Afterward, coach Jim Larranaga tried to downplay the significance of his team’s start.
“Basically, it means we have 15 more games,” he responded when asked what it mean to be 3-0. “It’s very, very early in the conference race. Anything can happen.”
Yet he also acknowledged the win over Maryland does have a little extra significance. Both teams are expected to be fighting for one of the top four spots in the conference standings, and this is their only scheduled meeting in the regular season. This result could come into play when seedings for the ACC tournament are determined.
“When you only play them one time a year you want to have that edge in case you end up tying with them in the regular season,” Larranaga said. “One of the tiebreakers is head-to-head matchups.”
One of the big keys to the Hurricanes’ early success has been their defense. No ACC team has yet to crack the 60-point mark against them, and two (Georgia Tech and Maryland) have failed to get past 50. North Carolina got 59 in a nine-point loss.
The defense was especially crucial against Maryland because the Hurricanes themselves were struggling offensively. They shot only 34.9 percent from the field for the game and only 27.6 percent in the first half.
The Terrapins, meanwhile, managed only 33.6 percent for the game after hitting only 21.4 percent in the first 20 minutes.
The two teams combined for only 33 points in the first half, which ended with Miami on top 19-14.
“You’re not going to shoot the ball great every time out,” said sophomore guard Shane Larkin, who made five of his 11 attempts overall but missed all three of his 3-point tries. “Tonight was just one of those nights, but our defense really picked it up.
“At the end of the game, you’ve just got to hold them to less points. Our defense won the game for us tonight.”
Larkin finished the game with six assists, second to teammate Trey McKinney Jones. Both likely would have had more had their teammates cashed in on the opportunities they had been presented.
Miami never gave up the lead after breaking a 3-3 tie on Kenny Kadji’s 3-pointer with 15:22 left in the first half, but there were two key stretches late in the game that determined the outcome in Miami’s favor.
With the Hurricanes up only 35-29, Julian Gamble slammed home two consecutive dunks -- one on a pass from Larkin, the other on a follow of Durand Scott’s missed breakaway layup -- to make it a 10-point game with 5:22 left.
The Terps quickly cut that deficit in half, but then Gamble took a pass underneath from McKinney Jones and slammed home his third dunk over a two-minute span.
After Alex Len responded with a dunk at the other end to get the Terps back within five, McKinney Jones drilled a 3-pointer from the left side, and it was an eight-point game with 1:42 left.
McKinney Jones then hit four free throws and Scott and Larkin added breakaway layups in the remaining time to stifle Maryland’s comeback hopes.
“We’re in first place, but I mean, we’ve just started -- three games, you know” Kadji said. “We’ve got 13 -- uh, 15 more games, so we’ve just started.”
The schedule puts the Hurricanes back on the road again for their next game, taking them to Chestnut Hill to play Boston College Wednesday night. They have a week between games before their next encounter, which is against Duke in Coral Gables on Jan. 23.